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New Bay Bridge bombshell—tower bolts are also substandard

Monday, May 13, 2013

The magnitude of the new Bay Bridge east span’s bad engineering opened onto a new vista over the weekend with the revelation that the bridge’s signature suspension tower is plagued by faulty bolts similar to those found elsewhere in the $6.4 billion structure. The Chronicle reports that 424 threaded rods—24 feet long and 3 and 4 inches in diameter—inside the 525-foot-tall tower and thus highly problematic to replace are vulnerable to being invaded by hydrogen that could cause them to become brittle and crack. An excerpt from Jaxon Van Derbeken’s story:

"The problem is going to be that, over a long time, you start to see some cracks," said Russell Kane, an expert on metal embrittlement and corrosion who owns a consulting firm in Texas. In an earthquake, he said, "you are going to have some of those pre-existing cracks that are going to grow like crazy."

"If you have cracks in them, all bets are off," Kane said. "The thing could be swaying in the wind very quickly."

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